Director Alex Garland had already impressed me with his engaging study of Artifical Intelligence and humanity in the film “Ex Machina.” He was definitely going to be a name to follow in years to come, and his follow up has just dropped amidst some controversy: “Annihilation” hit theaters in the United States but will soon be dropping directly to Netflix on several foreign markets. Producers had deemed the film too “heady” and “complex” for the average film-goer and decided to relegate the film to the next available market.
And I’m going to tell you right now that decision is downright shameful.
The film begins with a strange meteor’s crash into a Florida Peninsula lighthouse where it’s impact will have a significant effect on the surrounding area. We jump ahead a few years as a grieving widow mourns the loss of her husband to a military action- only to find him standing outside her bedroom door. He is confused, distant, and not altogether there. His classified mission has changed him and it isn’t long before our lead (Natalie Portman) is whisked away to a secret facility just outside the “shimmer”.
The “shimmer” is a phenomenon surrounding the area where the meteor had hit a lighthouse. Everything that goes in does not come out, no probes are able to broadcast, no people are coming out, and the shimmer is continuing to expand at a remarkable rate. Along with four other women, Portman’s Biologist enters and explores the Shimmer—
What follows is a complex exploration of birth, life, death, and rebirth as the women begin to succumb to the effects of the strange place. Animals seem almost cross bred with one another, fauna cross pollinates, and the whole area is engulfed in a strange glow that weighs on the protagonists minds. At once beautiful and grotesque, the world within the shimmer is a twisted reality.
With material based on the novels by Jeff VanderMeer, Alex Garland once again strikes Science Fiction gold and brings us a complex and horrifying glimpse into genetic manipulation and asks questions about the very basic foundations of life on this planet and, perhaps, on others.
8.5 out of 10.